12 Best Family-Friendly Activities in Santa Monica

12 Best Family-Friendly Activities in Santa Monica

  • Bulldog Realtors
  • 09/26/22

Santa Monica is often considered the pearl of Los Angeles, for good reason. It is home to world-renowned attractions, vibrant beaches, and fantastic dining options. Santa Monica offers a little bit for everyone, including families. With that in mind, our favorite family-friendly attractions in Santa Monica are here.

Visit the beach

Santa Monica Beach is quintessential Southern California, and many consider it to be the best beach in all of Los Angeles. Tourists and locals frequent it for its stunning beauty and vibrant patrons. The beach is located north of the pier, and you could easily spend a whole day trying to walk to the entire 3-mile beach. Food and beverages are easily accessible for longer stays on the beach. The beach is certainly family-friendly during the daytime. The waves may be too intense for those unfamiliar with swimming in the ocean, so keep an eye on younger children. There are many lifeguards on patrol to help keep everyone safe.

Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is arguably the most famous landmark in Santa Monica. While most piers just offer a nice walk out to sea, the Santa Monica Pier is full of fun amusement rides for the whole family. Older kids can enjoy the exhilarating roller coaster, while younger ones can enjoy a gentle ride on the merry-go-round. The Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier is probably the best place to watch an iconic California sunset. The pier also hosts special events year-round. This includes film screenings, a concert series, live plays, and yoga sessions. Visiting the pier is free, but rides and special events will charge for admission.

Palisades Park

If you are looking for something with a little less sand, Palisades Park is an excellent option. The park is just above Santa Monica Beach, north of the pier, so you can enjoy some stunning coastal views with refreshing ocean air. Perhaps the best place for a stunning view is the Beacon Overlook, located near California Avenue. The park is dotted with art pieces and sculptures throughout.

Palisades Park covers 26.4 acres and stretches for 1.6 miles, making it a great spot for long walks or picnics. Within the park is Camera Obscura Art Lab, a public studio space for local artists. At the lab, you can watch artists construct their craft.

Museum of Flying

Should your family need a break from the California sun, the Museum of Flying is an excellent choice for indoor entertainment. The museum was founded by family members of the famous Douglas Aircraft Company. Inside you'll find dozens of vintage aircraft and replicas, spanning from World War 1 fighter planes to jet-powered freight planes.

Perhaps the most exciting attraction is the MaxFlight FS3000 flight simulator. This is a fully immersive flight simulator that moves in 3D space. Be sure to empty your pockets if you plan on doing any barrel rolls. There is also an interactive area where children can enter open cockpits. Guests are also welcome to visit the local control tower radio, where they can listen to live air traffic communications while viewing the runway of the Santa Monica Airport.

Heal the Bay Aquarium

Formerly known as the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, the new Heal the Bay Aquarium is located near the entry point of the pier. The Aquarium is a family-friendly education center for learning about local aquatic life. It is designed to inspire a sense of conservation through discovery and interaction. The aquarium has over 100 species on display, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in marine biology without getting wet. The gift shop is full of zero waste products, many of which were crafted from recycled water bottles. Kids under 12 can enter for free; it is only $10 for everyone else.

Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome

The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome is located near the Santa Monica Pier. While the hippodrome doesn't have any live chariot races, it has one of the world's most beautiful merry-go-rounds. It was designed by famed architect Charles Looff, who is often considered the grandfather of merry-go-rounds. Many of the horses were handcrafted with wood, as this merry-go-round was built in the early 20th century. The hippodrome and merry-go-round are entirely indoors, making it a nice escape from the sun.

Santa Monica Surf School

California is one of the best places for surfing in the world. It provides a nice outdoor activity and allows you to connect with the coastal lifestyle. Of course, learning to surf can be quite challenging. Many newcomers to Southern California need to find some kind of surf school. There are many to choose from in Santa Monica, but the Santa Monica Surf School may be the best.

The school has classes designed for beginners, and group sessions are available for families. Sessions include prep instructions on the beach before entering the water. Instructors can even mount GoPros to your board to help you create family mementos. If your kids want to become great surfers, Surf Camps are available for kids 9 and older during the summer.

Tongva Park

Just north of the Santa Monica Pier used to be a giant parking lot. Locals decided it was a bit of an eye sore and converted it into a park. Today, that park is known as Tongva Park. The six-acre park is divided into four sections: Observation Hill, Garden Hill, Discovery Hill, and Gathering Hill. There are plenty of shaded areas for picnics and playgrounds for the kids.

Located on the Gathering Hill is a grassy amphitheater. Throughout the year, the city hosts family-friendly plays that are free to attend. Within the park is the aptly named "Super Awesome Kids Splash-Pad." This is a gentle splash pad slide that is great for younger kids. The park employs many "Goodwill Ambassadors" to help keep it family-friendly.

Santa Monica History Museum

The Santa Monica History Museum is located a few blocks away from the beach near Santa Monica Boulevard. There are plenty of exhibits at the museum to help keep kids entertained and fascinated. The museum details Santa Monica's history quite well. During the first half of the 20th century, Santa Monica was a tight-knit community somewhat isolated from the rest of Los Angeles. That all changed when the construction of I-10 finished, connecting the beach town to the rest of the city.

Perhaps the best part of the museum is the "Hands on History" events hosted on select Saturdays. These events are specifically for children aged 5-11 years old. Hands-on History entails a history lesson followed by an arts and crafts session.

John Drescher Planetarium at Santa Monica College

The John Drescher Planetarium at Santa Monica College is a fully digitized planetarium theater. It is powered by the Evans and Sutherland Digistar II, which was revolutionary in its time. Every Friday, the Planetarium is open to the public. Guests can lay back in the recliner chair and gaze up at the impressive light show.

There are generally two shows every Friday. The first one at 7 p.m. tends to be educational, and the second show at 8 p.m. is more entertainment-based. No matter which shows you choose, it is family-friendly and recommended for kids over the age of 6.

Santa Monica Playhouse

The Santa Monica Playhouse is a non-profit theater. While the theater does have plays more so intended for adults, there are plenty of family-friendly plays as well. Popular family shows include Cinderella and Snow White. The theater is dedicated to providing more than just plays. They want the audience to truly enjoy the magic live performances. Most of the shows are interactive and encourage audience participation.

The theater also hosts plenty of workshops for kids. These are held year-round and help children tap into their creative side.


PAINT:LAB is a walk-in art studio that allows visitors to see artists working on their pieces. It is a great opportunity for kids to learn about all the hard work that goes into the creative process. PAINT:LAB also offers drop-off workshops for kids aged 6-12. These are typically only available during the summers. On Sundays, the whole family is welcome to attend group workshops. Kids' parties are also available for booking.

Ready to move to Santa Monica?

Santa Monica is a great place to raise a family. In addition to the beautiful beaches, there are plenty of activities geared toward children. Finding the right realtor can make all the difference if you're looking to move to Santa Monica. That's where Bulldog Realtors can help. We are a diverse team of realty experts who know all the ins and outs of Santa Monica's market. If you're looking for the top realtors in Los Angeles, we're here to help.

Feel free to contact us any time. For the latest Santa Monica real estate news and culture guides, be sure to check out our blog.

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